As it moves up to Division 2 this season, the Grand Island High School hockey team hopes to ride its speed to another championship.
So far, so good.
The Vikings top lines were too quick for Williamsville South on Thursday and Grand Island posted a 5-1 Section VI Boys Federation Hockey win over the Billies at the Northtown Center in the season-opener for both teams.
“We went out there and our skill guys really showed up,” Grand Island coach Bob Simpson said. “We had a lot of odd-man breaks and really took advantage of our speed. That’s something we want to utilize all season long and we did a good job of it tonight.”
Nick Phinney and Thomas Cecere had two goals and Nathan Reichel added a goal and an assist for Grand Island. Parker Morrow had four assists and Anthony DiSimone added two helpers for GI. The Vikings outshot the Billies 22-16.
“Our speed was working for us,” Cecere said. “We were dumping the puck in and going around them. Their defense was kind of slow, they couldn’t really keep up with our speed.”
A year ago, the Vikings went 13-2-1 to the Division 3 regular season championship. The playoffs weren’t as fun as Grand Island was upset in round one by West Seneca East.
“It didn’t end up like we wanted last year,” said Simpson, who serves as an assistant under Don Pray, “but we have a lot of our big-time players back and now we have high expectations of doing big things this year.”
The competition may be a little different with the move up to Division 2. But the tougher division hasn’t lowered the expectations.
“I don’t think it matters,” Cecere said. “I think we’ll be ready for any team we face and I don’t any team in this league should be better than us.”
They showed it right away on Thursday night as Phinney scored just 22 seconds into the game, from Reichel and Morrow. Cecere made it 2-0 on the power play early in the second, from Morrow and DiSimone.
Grand Island put the game away in the third with goals by Reichel, Phinney and Cecere. Jason Lupp made 15 saves for the win in net.
“We just kept working, kept skating real hard and put on as much pressure as we could all of the time,” Phinney said. “And our goaltender was outstanding. I’m really hyped, I can’t wait for the season to get going. Everyone played really well tonight.
Kevin McGraw had the lone goal for Williamsville South in the third period with an assist from Leonard Higgins.